Weld Air and Water, a local grassroots group, has monitored the Governor’s Oil & Gas Task Force proceedings and eagerly anticipates the February 27th report. We appreciate Governor Hickenlooper’s attempt to facilitate compromise among the factions and agree with the Tribune Editorial Board’s February 12th op-ed statement: “if the task force falls short, we hope the Legislature will take up the issue with meaningful, pragmatic, bipartisan legislation. If our elected leaders fail to act, voters will.” Indeed, people should act to preserve their quality of life. Most Coloradans, regardless of party affiliation, share a belief in the importance of environmental stewardship, local control of zoning, and a sustainable, stable economy. But energy-related legislative votes tend to cleave along party lines and given the even split in our State legislature, a stalemate seems likely. Seeking solutions, not stalemate, Weld Air and Water has formed an alliance with grassroots groups in Windsor and Western Slope communities. We are asking for a meeting with the Governor, knowing that administrative and legislative solutions are preferable to amendment of the State Constitution.
Weld Air and Water is a diverse group of all political affiliations. We specifically oppose high-intensity fracking in proximity to schools and residences. We are not anti-fracking per se; in fact, among us there are mineral leaseholders. Some signed immediately, while others delayed and then eventually signed because of the specter of forced pooling. We figured that if we can’t beat them, we might as well join them and receive the signing bonus. Many of us were rewarded for our hesitancy when a third party offered us a signing bonus and royalty rate superior to the substandard rate offered by the drilling company. I know of one household planning to donate their signing bonus to Energy Outreach Colorado, a non-profit organization that helps low-income Coloradans pay heating bills and improve energy efficiency. Like that donor, you too can make a difference. If you haven’t acted yet, now is the time. The meaning of the truism–if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem–was made clear to me recently. An honest friend pointed out that in spite of my environmental idealism, in my actions I am quite average and culpable. I worked for an automotive quick-lube chain for many years. I fly when I should take Amtrak, leaving a huge carbon footprint. We are all enmeshed in a complex system that encourages codependence upon oil and gas. Litmus tests of ideological purity and demonizing rhetoric are unproductive. Instead it is helpful to examine oneself, our shared systemic problems, and the scientific research. We, the moderate citizens of Colorado, can be a part of the solution. We can take mass transit, buy solar panels, or get an energy audit. And we can tell the Governor, the Task Force, and our representatives that we support prudent regulation of the oil and gas industry.
It’s time for a “People’s Task Force,” the forging of a middle path between the extremes of greenwashing and doomsday jeremiads. It’s time to restore fairness and balance of power; the oil and gas industry should be subject to local zoning authority as is every other industry. We can safely develop oil and gas as a bridge fuel, but we need to allow the infrastructure development, environmental impact studies, and compliance and inspection systems to catch up. Increased residential setback distances and full application of local zoning authority are changes that a majority of Coloradans can support. We, the people, are willing to cooperate in a nonpartisan manner. Are industry and our politicians willing to do the same?
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